Cisco Debuts Security Architecture at RSA Conference

Rising demand in the workplace for mobile computing and 24/7 access requires a new security architecture, Cisco Systems cyber-security executive says.

by / February 17, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO — Tom Gillis, vice president and general manager for Cisco System’s Security Technology Business Unit, may have a lengthy title, but his message at the 2011 RSA Conference was simple and to the point: The modern enterprise security model is becoming ill-suited for a rapidly changing enterprise network, and something new is needed.

During a keynote at the Moscone Center on Wednesday, Feb. 16, Gillis unveiled his company’s answer to the problem: SecureX, a context-aware architecture designed to make networks aware of threats regardless of where an endpoint is located in the world.

“It’s a network security device that goes beyond just looking at packets on the wire, and it looks at external information to understand the full context of the situation,” Gillis said. “It’s what I call the ‘who, what, where, when and how of security.’”

Cisco intends for SecureX to handle security for a work force that’s changing too fast and becoming too unwieldy for traditional security controls to deal with. Mobility and virtualization have changed the landscape so much, Gillis said, that security parameters must adjust. Gillis didn’t go into full detail about just how SecureX worked but did mention that it would employ Cisco’s TrustSec technology to discern information about a user’s network activity and that it would employ Cisco Security Intelligence Operations (SIO), an intelligence gathering tool.
As the work force becomes more mobile and uses a wider variety of endpoints, Gillis said security must emerge in the middle: between the endpoint and the network that’s being accessed.

“In a world where you no longer have a network with a clearly defined beginning and an end, where does security go?” he said. “It goes into the middle. Security needs to go into the fabric of the network to accommodate this much more fluid, much more dynamic enterprise organization.”

Gillis mentioned that Cisco Senior Vice President and CIO  Rebecca Jacoby introduced an “any-device” company policy two years ago. An employee can choose whatever device he or she wants — an iPhone, BlackBerry, Android or something else — to get the job done as efficiently as needed. This policy also represents, as Gillis pointed out in his speech, how far enterprise computing has expanded beyond the mainframe and desktop environments of years past. The security protocols that were built to lock down these networks are largely in place today, and that needs to change, Gillis said.

“Now we all know that the workplace of tomorrow involves anytime, anywhere access to information. That means that security enforcement needs to happen anytime, anywhere as well,” Gillis said.

Hilton Collins

Hilton Collins is a former staff writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines.

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